New Jersey is getting closer to becoming the tenth state to enact a paid sick leave law. On Thursday, April 12, 2018, the New Jersey Senate passed (A1827) and is headed for Governor Murphy’s desk for his signature. The bill was approved in March by the Assembly.
The legislation would allow workers to accrue one hour of earned sick leave for every 30 hours. Employees who work for employers with less than 10 employees can accrue up to a maximum of 40 hours per year and employees who work for employers that employ more than 10 employees can accrue up to a maximum of 72 hours per year. Workers would be eligible for paid sick leave after 120 days of employment.
Certain types of employees are exempt from the bill, namely certain construction employees, per-diem health-care workers and public employees who have sick leave benefits in place. Employees who are employed by temporary employment agencies will accrue the benefits based upon the time they are employed with the agency and not for each separate client they are assigned. The employer must pay the sick leave earned by the employee at the same rate of pay with the same benefits as the employee usually earns.
The employee can use the time to care for themselves or for a sick family member, including diagnosis, care, treatment and recovery of a physical or mental illness, or for preventative care of the employee. The time can also be used for the purposes of attending school meetings and conferences, and in the case where a child’s school is closed for the day. The sick leave may also be taken when an employee or a member of his/her family requires an absence from work due to circumstances surrounding recovery from domestic violence. This includes medical care for either physical or psychological injury incurred as a result of the domestic violence. Sick leave benefits can also be used for counseling for the employee or a family member as well as obtaining relocation or legal services.
Workers will now be able to take the time they need to recover from an illness without fear of a loss in income or loss of their employment. This in turn leads to a healthier and more productive workforce, thus benefiting the employee, the employer, and ultimately, the state’s economy. The legislation also makes it unlawful for the employer to retaliate or discriminate against an employee for utilizing their available sick leave. Retaliation includes not only termination, but any retaliatory personnel action which includes constructive discharge, suspension, demotion, unfavorable reassignment, refusal to promote, disciplinary action, sanction, reduction in work hours, reporting or threatening to report immigration status of the employee or his or her family member. Penalties for violating the New Jersey Paid Sick Leave bill will include the same as provided under the New Jersey Wage and Hour law, which includes attorney’s fees and costs incurred in prosecuting a violation under the act.
With the expected passage of this bill, New Jersey is once again ahead of the curve in demonstrating that it is a worker friendly state by assuring employees that their incomes will not diminish as result of not being able to work as a result of an illness. The New Jersey Employment Lawyers at Smith Eibeler will keep you updated on the anticipated passing of the New Jersey Paid Sick Leave bill by the governor.